Open enrollment is going to look different this year. With the inflation rate at around 8.2%, Americans are approaching every financial decision differently—including their benefits coverage. And this increased inflation is also affecting HR departments going into open enrollment season this year. Open enrollment is always stressful for HR leaders and managers as they balance building quality benefits packages, managing costs, and streamlining communications across the entire organization. 

These days, employees expect benefits that enhance their mental and physical health, provide work-life balance, and support them on their family-building journey. These are high expectations—but you can guide your people to make the right decisions for themselves and their families. We sat down with Kathleen Davin, Director of People Operations at Maven Clinic, to discuss the top five tips for effective communication during this open enrollment period. 

Tip #1: Be upfront about any changes

The first thing that Davin recommends is figuring out any changes to the benefits package—and communicating them in a clear, concise way. “Make sure you’re sharing with the full team about what changed,” says Davin. “You have to make sure those changes are crystal clear, with communications that are approachable and easy to understand.” These communications can involve presentations during company-wide meetings, office hours, and emails with clear calls to action. This may seem like overkill, but consistent, straightforward delivery is essential, as nearly one-third of American workers admitted they do not fully understand the employee benefits they selected during their most recent open enrollment period. 

Tip #2: Set clear deadlines early and communicate them often 

A successful open enrollment process requires a detailed timeline from the first reminder to the final deadlines. “I recommend making a decision-making flowchart telling people, ‘If you want to make a change this year, here’s what to do by this date,’” says Davin. “It ensures people are hitting all the deadlines in the process.” Most HR professionals advise giving teams between two to four weeks to look at their choices and make their selections. By communicating clear timelines and deadlines frequently, you can ensure that all changes are submitted on time.

Tip #3: Personalize communications

After sending information about open enrollment to the whole team, it’s time to sit down with team members individually and talk through their options. “One-on-one office hours are very effective during open enrollment, as HR teams can work with employees to see how this personally affects them,” explains Davin. “Benefits are very personal to people.” 

One-on-one communication also ensures that any questions can be answered and employees can use their benefits to their fullest potential. A lack of benefits utilization may be an issue employees aren’t even aware of—according to a 2022 survey by Voya Financial, less than half of benefit-eligible employees actually took advantage of the benefit coverage offered by their employers. “It’s important that people feel taken care of throughout the process and know it’s going on,” says Davin. “You have to follow up with people on how they are impacted individually.” 

Tip #4: Create a hub for resources

It may take time for employees to feel fully educated on their benefits, as a comprehensive understanding of benefits develops throughout the year, not just during open enrollment. “During open enrollment, employees are making a decision that is going to be relevant all year,” explains Davin. Davin also recommends reaching out to employee groups after open enrollment to ensure employees continuously understand how to use their benefits. “After open enrollment has closed, ERGs can be a great place to follow up.” 

Beyond open enrollment, employees may need to revisit areas of benefits when they’re relevant to them, such as when they begin to start or grow their families. “You have to find those opportunities to check back in,” says Davin. “There might be a new parent going out on leave, so you remind them about a product like Maven or reshare your company’s leave policies. It’s about making sure people have the right communications when they need them.”

Tip #5: Find trusted vendors

At the end of the day, you can only send so many emails or have so many meetings. “You’re only one person, you can only do so much to make sure your employees understand their benefits,” says Davin. But investing in trusted vendors that can serve as a go-to resource for employees and their families could make open enrollment decisions easier. “It’s about finding partners that your employees know, where they feel confident their questions will get answered. That just takes so much off your plate.” 

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More than ever, benefits are an important way for employers to demonstrate their commitment to their employees. By preparing for the open enrollment season, you’ll be able to personalize your benefits and encourage your employees to make the best benefits selection decisions for them. Looking for vendors to serve as trusted partners during this time? Learn more about Maven today. 

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